WATERVILLE, ME – The fifth-seeded Williams women's basketball team dropped a heartbreaker to fourth-seeded Colby today in the NESCAC quarterfinals 61-59. The game came down to foul shots with 2.1 seconds to play. Both teams find themselves at 19-6 on the year.
The two teams traded hoops for the rest of the half, and despite the Ephs shooting 59% from the field, the Mules went into the locker room up 35-33.
Out of the break, the Ephs took the game over with an 8-0 run. After the Mules started to get back in the game, Rehnquist went two-for-two from the line with just under 11 minutes to play to give the Ephs the 48-42 lead. The Mules, however, continued to fight, and they made it a one-point game behind a finish inside from Rachael Mack.
The Ephs then missed a shot inside with 36 seconds to play, and Bennett returned to the foul line with 27 on the clock. She went two-for-two from the charity space. Greenberg, however, responded for the Ephs with a huge long ball with 18 seconds left. The Mules had the final possession in their hands, and Ritchie drove to the hoop. She was fouled with 2.1 seconds on the clock and hit both free throws to give the Mules the hard-fought victory.
Leading the way tonight for the Mules was Bennett with 13. Ritchie added 12, and Mack posted a double double for the Mules with 11 points and ten rebounds. The Mules shot 43.3% from the floor on the night.
Danny Rainer had a fantastic game for the Ephs with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Rehnquist, Kellie Macdonald, and Greenberg added 13, 12 and 11 points respectively. The Ephs shot 48.9% from the field.
After the game, Coach Manning said, "I thought we played a tremendous game. Everything that we had worked on all week, we did: We shot 49% for the game, we outrebounded them. Last time we played them they outrebounded us by ten. We did so well on the boards." She added, "I thought Danny Rainer had a fantastic game – just attacking in the paint, and [for] Kellie Macdonald the same [was true]. The two of them just went after it inside. And Lisa got us rebounds. Jill and Grace are the other two who really sort of stand out to me."
She went on to say, "I don't feel like we lost it – I feel like they won it. They made big shots at the end when they had to. It was just wire-to-wire. It was a phenomenal game."
Earlier this year, the Mules defeated the Ephs by six. Manning was impressed with her team's improvement over the last couple weeks: "I think what I am happiest with was the things that they hurt us on the first time around they didn't hurt us on this time. I think that showed growth in our team and that we were able to make adjustments, so all of that was good. Colby is a very good team, and they came through with clutch shots when they had to."
She was proud of her team's efforts this year: "I'm so proud of this team because of how they competed. I think that was what was so exciting for me to see. The growth from November to now is phenomenal, but even since we had to change things when Claire Baecher got hurt [we have grown a lot]. Different people had to step up and assume roles they didn't have to for the first 14 games of the season. I thought it was just great growth over the month."
She was particularly complimentary of captain Greenberg: "I think that Jill especially played her best season of basketball. She did it on both ends of the floor; she really came through for us. It was just tremendous leadership."
The Mules move on to play top-ranked Amherst in the NESCAC semi-finals. The Ephs hope to get an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament; the tournament field will be announced next Monday.
Looking ahead to the tournament, Manning said, "We're keeping our fingers crossed that we have a shot at an at-large. We play an incredibly tough strength of schedule, and we play in the toughest conference in the country... We're hopeful that we still have a shot."